“Vienna, I love you / But you’re killing me”...
Relationships with a place you call home can mirror family ties. On the one hand, you have unconditional love for your soil and/or parents – on the other hand, you have communication breakdowns and frustration. Just ask any ex-pat; they loved their country so much that they had to leave it behind rather than watch what was taking place inside of it. Johannes Auvinen’s new album under the Tin Man moniker, Vienna Blue, explores the loves and regrets one can experience inside the same precinct. Auvinen’s career in covert electronica and impressionistic sound sculptures is a perfect backdrop for urban decay – or stasis. The beauty of an album like Vienna Blue is that you just don’t know if Auvinen is feeling content or not about his adopted home of Vienna. The ebb and flow of the 22-track, 61-minute collection neither validates nor refutes either of these notions. Much like Kubrick’s bird’s eye, prejudice-free view of warfare in Full Metal Jacket, the latest Tin Man project leaves it to you, the audience, to sort everything out. And so what if you don’t?
The musical style of Tin Man is one that satisfies all attention spans. Johannes Auvinen’s sense of detachment makes it palatable for easy listening. It is also rich and detailed, possessing many ornamentals and sleights of hand, making it equally ideal for close listening. His distant, almost disembodied voice sits in the mix as if it were just another track imported from the keys. Any percussive beat employed in the songs acts as a soft metronome for the far more important nuances that drive the sound. There are no abrasive flights of fancy that scream for attention, so you could get away with saying that the whole thing is, just like a city, all about the atmosphere. Sometimes, Auvinen gets downright Eno on you.
As Vienna Blue starts, you may be forgiven for thinking you have the incorrect album playing. Opener “Whimsical Chairs” has far more in common with avant-garde string quartets than it does with urban, minimal electronica. Though the musical style moves gradually towards the synthetic leanings of Tin Man’s origins, the mood itself changes very little along the way. When Auvinen states that “Tender Is the Night”, you’re at a loss as to whether or not he’s trying to be romantic. Still, the cycle rolls along: instrumental preludes, traditional song forms, an occasional blend of the two, all swap places in no decipherable pattern, thereby establishing an atmosphere so thick that it avoids a harsh critique. A two-and-a-half-minute instrumental titled “OK, Improvise” sounds nothing like the command it implies. He’s in Eno/Budd territory by this point. And when he concedes “I’ll find a way to sing it sweeter”, on the title track, it sounds like, in reality, he can take it or leave it.
This sense of cold detachment is not a criticism. No, in fact, it’s a compliment to a musician/artist when they can frame their surroundings, their very life and times, in sterility. It represents an ability to break away from the autobiographical, to get inside the entity of some place like a bustling metropolis without tooting your own horn. Songs from The Big Apple tend to be alienating since they have that I-live-here-and-you-don’t quality to them. Vienna Blue, on the other hand, gives you no such guff. It’s the stuff of urban glory, folly, and all human achievements in between.
- Multiple songs Soundcloud